January 4, 2013, Sponsored by RMC Project Management, Inc.
From the Editor
One of the great things about New Year's is the beguiling possibility of a fresh start. Changing one number on the calendar doesn't really mean much, of course, but the psychological impact of all those unsullied calendars is almost as intoxicating as the New Year's Eve champagne. To keep that optimism bubbling near the surface, we're launching 2013 with thoughts on wrapping up any straggling project pieces from last year, getting your next projects off to a solid start, and pointing your career in the right direction for the next twelve months.
Discipline: The Relatively Boring Key to the Door of Success
Last year I read Jim Collins's new book, Great By Choice, and his rigorous research proved what I've always suspected -- that discipline is one of the few keys to sustainable business success. To be honest, I thought economic cycles, technology trends, or even luck, would play a major role, but ten years of research revealed that the most successful companies share just three characteristics: 1) Fanatic discipline, 2) Calibrated creativity, and 3) Productive paranoia. (True to form, Jim ruled out luck using rigorous statistical analysis.) While creativity and paranoia play a big part in my life, let's just focus on fanatic discipline in this particular rant.
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by Kimberly Wiefling
Premium How-To Course
Monitoring and Communicating Risks
Presented by Carl Pritchard, Pritchard Management Associates
Your project risk list should be a living document, not a one-time effort. In this mini-course, Carl Pritchard coaches you through identifying information used to analyze and understand a project's risk profile and presenting that risk information in multiple ways, to enable clear, concise communication. Learn how to have an intelligent, informed, and unemotional (or at least less emotional) conversation about project risks. 1 PDU
Learn more »
The pieces are finally fitting together. You're ready to hand this project over and get started on the next one. Before you do, make sure you're really done.
Integration Plan – MEMBER
"The smoke tests are done. Integrate it!" If only it were that simple. Integration is often a mere diamond on a project schedule, but it pays to plan it in advance. If you're coming off your holiday break with one of those diamonds looming on your calendar, it's not too late. This outline can help you think through the integration steps before you push the button.
End of Delivery Phase Checklist – PREMIUM
You're ready to be done, but is the project ready? This checklist can help you be sure. It reviews activities and deliverables that should be completed by the end of your delivery or release phase. Items you can't check off are liable to slow you down on your next effort by dragging you back to this one.
Customer Acceptance Checklist – PREMIUM
Once you're sure you're ready to be done, make sure the customer is just as sure. This checklist walks your end user/buyer through the review and test of a pre-release system. They can record issues, indicate which ones must be resolved (and which are nice-to-haves), and ultimately sign off on accepting the new system. Next month, when they call wondering why thus-and-such is done in such-a-way, you'll have solid documentation reviewed and signed by both parties. Why would you pass that up?
The old year and old projects are officially done, and you're kicking off a new set of activities. Use these tools to make sure you start off on the right foot.
SWOT Analysis – SPECIAL
This Premium resource is free to registered Members until January 17, 2013
Before you launch your next project into orbit, consider a SWOT Analysis -- a review of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats affecting it, and your organization. SWOT analysis is often used to evaluate strategic choices (project objectives, priorities, etc.) and can also be used to review potential impacts on things like a process, solution, or business entity.
Project Charter – PREMIUM
Once your project idea has been evaluated and approved for further investigation, you need to communicate the major parameters and high-level information. This template for a succinct project charter helps you summarize that critical information without writing a 30-page novella no one will have time to read or refer to.
Communication Plan – PREMIUM
Since everyone's in the "new habits" mindset, it's a great time to implement any new team communication measures you've been considering. Formalize them with a brief communication plan like this one. Use the outline to document how you want team members to manage meetings, status reports, reviews, and so on, both internally and with external stakeholders.
If you've resolved to be more proactive about your career this year, you'll want to study these two items. One details the mistaken impressions we sometimes have of our opportunities, from an executive point of view. The other encourages us to see our potential colleagues and employers as "customers" of a product that we can, and should be marketing.
An Executive View of Career- and Success-Limiting "Boxes"
A number of individual contributors and first level managers evidently feel stalled in their careers and have decided that it's not their fault. The solution, they think, is if they just move over to person X's group and get to work on project Y, then they'll be set and on a fast track. Any of those 'constrained' people could take the same initiative right where they are, and make for themselves the same opportunities and visibility, and win the same promotions. But they're operating daily in a box of their own making. And they've ended up putting a box around their own careers.
Career Management as Personal Marketing and Business Development – MEMBER
This paper provides a comprehensive picture of valuable skills to develop as you move through your career, with the very important context of why you need them from the "customer's" viewpoint. It also explains how presentation skills, technical expertise, meeting management skills, networking, business understanding, and the like can provide incredible career leverage, and how you can develop and market those skills.
The best lessons are those someone else learns for us. This week, Morley Selver shares six valuable lessons from a painful project history that includes safety violations, shady billing, and possibly the most hair-raising "my friend the contractor" tale we've ever read. Take his takeaways to heart the next time you find yourself saying "This Is Going To Be A Fun Project!"
If your projects or department are facing a few important choices this year, you should review Alfonso Bucero's latest entry on influencing decisions. The nine principles he outlines here are inspired by Nobel Prize winner Daniel Khanemann's work on decision-making heuristics, but they're just as valid in project management as they are in economics.
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